Grounds for Divorce Under the Laws of New York

New York law requires that a person petitioning for divorce provide a reason for the action. There are seven legally-acceptable grounds for divorce set forth in section 170 of the state's Domestic Relations Law. The first six of the grounds require specific activity on the part of one of the spouses. They are abandonment, adultery, imprisonment, cruel and inhuman treatment, living separately by the terms of a decree or judgment of separation and living separately by the terms of a separation agreement.

The seventh of the acceptable grounds for divorce is the most recent addition to the law and allows for no-fault divorce. It requires at least six months of an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship. This means that the relationship cannot be repaired and that there is no possibility of reconciliation between the spouses. Though it is commonly referred to as no-fault divorce, an action brought under this basis is not automatically granted.

Rather, divorce will not be granted in a no-fault case until one or the other of the spouses has sworn that the relationship has irretrievably broken down for six months or more and either the couple or the court has decided economic and custody issues. Thus, either the couple must come to agreement regarding a variety of matters such as property division, child support, custody and visitation, or the court will decide for them.

In a situation where an individual wants to pursue a no-fault divorce in New York, an attorney may be able to assist with the drafting and filing of a petition that meets the state's filing requirements. A divorce attorney may also be able to assist during divorce negotiations or litigation of issues such as child custody, child support and property division.

Source: Introduction to Uncontested Divorce Instructions, "Grounds for Divorce," New York State Unified Court System, Oct. 17, 2014